Don't be fooled by the grim-faced picture. It was the only unblinking one. For me, words are worth a thousand pictures. I'm looking forward to saying hi to all of you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nathan Sawaya: Lego artist who brings kids to art

You should see the kids in the Contemporary Gallery of The Nassau County Museum of Att leaning into the Lego® sculptures by Nathan Sawaya. They were so excited—art that they could relate to, something worth being schlepped to a museum for.
Nathan was originally a corporate lawyer. While studying law at NYU, he built a Lego® model of Greenwich Village. Imagine how thrilled his mother must have been when she heard he was leaving the law for Lego®. But now, she must be saying, “My Son the International Brick Artist,” because that’s what Nathan Sawaya has become. Six years ago he won a Lego® building contest at Toys R’Us and left his lucrative job for a $30,000 a year gig as a Lego® builder at Legoland®. His work is now in private collections and museums all over the world, as well it should be. According to journalist Scott Jones, “Sawaya is a surrealist mash-up of forms and artists. Imagine Frank Lloyd Wright crossed with Ray Harryhausen, or Auguste Rodin crossed with Shigeru Miyamoto, and you start to get a sense of where Sawaya is coming from.” http://brickartist.com/about/
When we think of the mediums artists work in: oil, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, etc. why not Lego®?
And why not have children delighted at museums instead of turned-off?

Friday, February 10, 2012

ASSISTANCE at Playwrights Horizons

New York Premier of a new play by Leslye Headland
Director: Trip Cullman
Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater, 416 West 42nd St.
Opening night, Tuesday, Feb. 28th.

We all know them—the beleaguered corporate assistants who are giving up any hope of personal time, relationships, and sanity, all for the overriding ambition to be the next CEO, or at least have a better job title, or maybe, just maybe a raise. In a canny dramatist move, you don’t know what this company is and we never see the CEO, just hear him on the phone hurling abuse at his assistants, setting up impossible tasks for them, making them cater to him to him ways that are not only unnecessary, but sadistic. By doing this, Headland allows the reader to fill in the business, the face, because either we’ve worked for someone like that or we’re close to someone who is. The proof of that is to hear the audience roaring over the mayhem caused by this guy. A satire that’s all too true!

And what’s also true is that the creepiest, most dishonest and incompetent character played Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, (also seen in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, et. al.) is the one who manages to get advancement. Isn’t that always the way?
Nick (Michael Esper, American Idiot, A Man for All Seasons) hasn’t gotten his promotion yet. He has glimpses of the truth of his situation, which makes him come to work hung over and become the compulsive jokester. When Nora (Virginia Cull seen in Man and Boy and Dividing the Estate) ,quits, Nick is on the edge of seeing the truth, but still trying to hide from it. Justin, another assistant (Bobby Steggert of The Minister’s Wife and The Grand Manner) has to break up with his therapist to prevent himself from seeing the truth about the futile and toxic environment he’s working in. Heather (Sue Jean Kim seen in The Drunken City)plays an inept hysteric who hardly lasts a day. Nora’s replacement, Jenny (Amy Rosoff seen in Dangerous Liaisons) who takes supplants Nora’s position like an opportunist weed, begins cool, collected, and ends up decompensating like the rest.

This is a play to go to after a drink with your work mates. But it’s also a play to go to if you’re a parent with young kids. Thanks to a grant that it took ten years to secure, you can now get childcare while you watch the show. The sitters for Playtime are bonded, top-of-the-line folks from Sitters Studio who you would want to have around your child. But they are also artists who will provide a fun and creative cultural experience for your child while you enjoy the show.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Madonna at the Superbowl--Rock On, Girl

In 1990, I had no idea who Madonna was. I was forty-three years old and the last time I had taken an interest in pop music was when I used to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and learn the latest songs such as “Earth Angel” and dance crazes like the Slop and the Frug from the Philadelphia bobby soxers. Oh, and I did have a healthy backlog of sixties songs to sing in the shower. “If I Had a Hammer” was perfect for when the water pipes began to make their knocking sounds. But I was a lyrics fiend and I couldn’t understand the words to the new music delivered by rock stars that suckled the microphone.
But then, at my daughter’s confirmation when she turned sixteen, the rabbi delivered a sermon railing against Madonna, her wantonness, the terrible influence she was having on teenage girls, instructing them to be Material Girls instead of Girl Scouts, exhorting them to be “Like a Virgin,” instead of a real virgin. The language in her songs he couldn’t bring himself repeat neither in nor out of temple. And her clothes! “Madonna,” the rabbi said, “was promoting cleavage on the bima,” meaning that the girls who followed her fashion wore low-cut dresses when they gave their bat mitzvah speeches.
Like the teens themselves, just tell me that I “shouldn’t” listen to or watch something and I have to. I just do!
When my daughter wasn’t home, I began to surreptitiously watch music videos on MTV and everything my rabbi said was confirmed for me when I saw Madonna in a scanty black leather costume, a studded iron collar clamped around her neck as she writhed in chains while singing a sultry song. But the more Madonna videos I watched, the more astonished I was with her talent. No matter what color she dyed her hair: black, blonde, brown, however short or long she wore it, she was an iconic beauty that I was sure would be emblazoned on the world’s consciousness forever like Marilyn Monroe or Marlene Dietrich. She has a slide trombone voice that can move you in any register. She can sound throaty, nasal, or clipped and tinny as a plucked electric guitar string. Her voice throbs through audiences, working them up to a frenzy. And she can deliver her lyrics with the passion of a Holy Roller speaking in tongues, yet you can understand each word and carry the song away with you.
Although I had to hand it to her as an entertainer, like my rabbi, I didn’t want my daughter to dance like Madonna whose choreographer might have used the Kama Sutra for inspiration. I didn’t want my daughter flipping through the pages of Madonna’s Sex book where Madonna looked like a Richard Lindner painting--hard-edged, veering on the abstract, but aggressively and assertively erotic. But would I tell my daughter not to listen to Madonna? Absolutely not, unless I wanted her to be Madonna’s greatest fan.
Hedging, I asked her, “So, what do you think of Madonna?”
“I like Guns N’ Roses better,” she said.
Phew, I thought.
And then, two years later when my daughter was on break from college, we were in the Museum of Modern Art looking at a show of Cindy Sherman’s photographs of herself as different characters such as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Sophia Loren in Two Women, challenging the traditional role of artist and model and how women were viewed in society, I started to think of all those Madonna videos I’d watched, how she’d entered a character so completely and left indelible images in a viewer’s mind. Who could forget her lying in the coffin in Like a Prayer or dancing before a backdrop of burning crosses? Who could forget her in the man-tailored suit and short, combed-back, short hair singing, Express Yourself? At the end of the exhibit, I read on a placard that Madonna had sponsored Cindy Sherman’s show. I stopped, live in my tracks, and reread it. I asked one of the docents about it. She told me that Madonna had not only backed Cindy Sherman’s show, but was a great supporter of other women artists.
I began to chat Madonna up to my daughter. “Did you hear that?” I said. “Madonna is not only bringing herself forward, but all her sisters, too. She’s a real feminist!”
My daughter, who had lived through the consciousness-raising groups I held in my basement, yawned a jaw-clicking yawn. Sure she yawned. She was never forced to wear a panty girdle or go to a commuter college because “girls should always live at home before they’re married.” My daughter kayaked rapids, climbed mountains, and went off to college where her dorm bathroom was coed. How liberated can you get?
I dropped the subject. But I never dropped my admiration or interest in Madonna/ She continues to inspire me. She has never stopped touring or innovating or broadening her interests. She’s constantly breaking new ground. She is a philanthropist, raising awareness of the orphans in Malawi. She’s published children’s books and launched a clothing line with her daughter and who knows what she’ll do next? Whenever I fall into the trap of I’m too old to do this ore that, I think of her still going strong in a youth culture, and I’m renewed.
I’m now confirmed in my belief that Madonna is a great example for my daughter and all our daughters. And to think I have my rabbi to thank for this revelation!